The Covid-19 pandemic hit like a storm in the face of the world causing major crises in all spheres of human existence on the Earth. It might be long before the virus can be completely eradicated considering the emergence of new variants like Delta and Omicron with varied disease symptoms time and again. But we are now better equipped in terms of medical facilities and more mentally prepared than ever in the unlikely occurrence of another deadly coronavirus wave.
World’s First Plant-Based Covid-19 Vaccine Authorized By Canada
Along with strict lockdown and enforcement of social distancing protocols worldwide, vaccination has played a major role in curbing the spread of Covid-19, thus protecting the majority of the immuno-compromised population from reaching a fatal state of disease.
Vaccines are very effective in preventing the spread of diseases by pre-equipping the body’s immune system with antibodies against the pathogen (bacteria, virus, fungus, or parasite) of a specific disease. The pathogen body consists of many subparts which are usually specific to it and the disease it causes in the host body it infects. When the body’s immune system comes in contact with a specific subpart of the pathogen, it activates the defense mechanism and produces antibodies to fight it.
The subpart of the pathogen that stimulates the formation of antibodies by the immune system is called an antigen. We already have thousands of antibodies in our bodies that act as a barrier to infection against hundreds of pathogens we encounter in our daily lives.
However, it takes time for the immune system to create these antibodies against a particular antigen when it first occurs. Until that happens, the individual is susceptible to severe disease caused by the pathogen. This explains why the disease rate worldwide was overwhelming as Covid-19 was a new virus and no one had the required antibodies in their immune system to fight it.
Vaccines work as a first-time encounter of the immune system to the weakened antigens of the pathogens so that the antibodies produced to act as a barrier and protect the body against future infections, thereby providing passive immunity to the individual. There is a specific period until antibodies are effective in providing protection against the antigen, thus causing the need for periodic doses and booster shots.
Increasing uptake of Covid-19 vaccines worldwide has raised hopes among the scientific community of achieving herd immunity against the virus. Herd immunity is achieved when a major of the population, typically > 95%, is immune to a pathogen thereby preventing further spread of the disease even to the unvaccinated population.
However, the duration of efficacy of Covid-19 is not established yet and newer variants of the virus keep emerging. The supply of Covid-19 vaccines needs to be constantly maintained for periodic doses to keep the immune systems of the population updated with the latest antibodies. Thus, scientists and immunologists are constantly researching new ways to increase the production and supply of Covid-19 vaccines.
Canada has become the first country in the world to authorize the use of a plant-based vaccine for Covid-19. This vaccine is produced by a biotechnology company Medicago based in Quebec-City using plants as a bio-factory to multiply the coronavirus-like particles.
These particles are then purified to collect adequate amounts of Covid-19 antigen, a protein layer that coats the coronavirus, mixed with certain immunity-boosting chemicals called adjuvants to produce the vaccines.
So far, the clinical trials of this vaccine have been done only on close to 24000 individuals and showed 71% efficacy at prevention of the coronavirus disease with mild side-effects like fatigue and fever. The administration of this vaccine can be done in two doses to individuals between the age of 18 and 65. It might take some time to gather enough test data on its efficacy but this new method of vaccine production can prove to be revolutionary not only for Covid-19 but for other diseases as well.